Do you have a Manager on your team and want to be able to manage them better? Or are you thinking about hiring or promoting someone to be a manager inside your Agency? If so, today’s episode is for you!
We’re going to chat about how you can get better at leading the Managers on your team so that they can feel empowered to make decisions, handle issues and help you grow your business.
A Manager is such a valuable role inside of your business that can absolutely change the trajectory of your Agency. My goal for you in this episode is to help you feel more confident hiring or promoting someone inside of your Agency to take on this critical role!
November Masterclass: How to Run Your Agency the Right Way in 2023
Hey everyone, Nicole here and welcome back to the show! Today we are talking about one of my favorite topics, which is Management and what to do if you have a manager on your team and you’re looking to be able to support them better in their role. Or maybe you’re someone who doesn’t have a manager on your team yet and you are the manager and you are looking to outsource that role in the near future. And just wanna figure out, what does this look like? How might I need to change the way that I am running my business and change the way that I’m delegating in order to make something like this work?
So first I want to start off by talking about the differences between managing implementers on your team versus managing managers on your team.
When I say implementer, what I mean is somebody who is actually doing the deliverables for your clients inside of your business. So for example, if you have a marketing company, and let’s say you offer copy services, design services and strategy services. An implementer would be the copywriter that you hire to write copy, the designer you hire to do designs. The strategist you hire in to do strategy. And maybe if you’re like many of the agency owners that I know, maybe you’re still involved in some of that client work and client delivery. So maybe you’re still the one who’s doing strategy. That’s something that’s pretty common for folks to hang onto for a while until they get to a point where they’re ready to outsource that piece of it and sometimes they never want to, and that’s okay too. But when I talk about implementing, I mean actually doing that work.
Now, managers, on the other hand, someone that you hire to come in and actually manage and oversee the work that’s being done and communicate with your team, with you and with your clients. And obviously the actual roles and responsibilities depend on where you are in your business right now, what your setup is, how many team members you have.
I work with some agency owners who have multiple managers on the team and have a leadership team. So the actual setup can be different, but generally those are the two types of roles I’m gonna be talking about inside of this podcast episode.
So the differences between managing implementers and managing managers is that when you’re managing implementers, you are the manager. If you don’t have anyone else on your team that has a manager role or responsibility, then you are the manager. And that means that you are responsible for managing your people, managing your clients, managing your team, making sure things are getting done, communicating expectations, creating project plans inside of a project management tool, assigning tasks, following up, checking in, making sure things are running smoothly. So the role of a manager is actually making sure that things are getting done and managing the people and the processes to get those things done.
When you have a manager, in most situations they do that for you. Now, again, it does depend on your team setup. I work with some agencies that are larger and have different departments, and so some of those roles are broken up a bit, but generally a manager’s responsibilities to man manage the people and processes to make sure things are getting done.
So, how do you successfully delegate management?
This is something that I think is really interesting because some of you may know that I started my business as a project manager. And what I decided pretty early on was that I wanted to have a team of project managers that I managed to work with our clients on different client accounts.
And after working in this role as a project manager myself, and then working with my team and seeing them in this role, I really got to see what projects that we managed worked really well from a management perspective and what projects didn’t. And what I found to be true is that the projects that didn’t go so well were the ones where we were only responsible for like one little piece of the puzzle.
And especially when we were coming into organizations that were doing other things that we just, we didn’t even know about. And the ones that were the most successful was when we would meet with the client, they would share all of the information with us. We would be able to see everything, and we would really be able to own our role as manager. We didn’t just have a piece of it, we were able to manage the entire process. And what was interesting too is that as I, as a agency owner, when I first started bringing in project managers, I initially wanted to hold on to the initial call with the client, and I wanted to hold on to creating the initial project plan, and then I wanted to bring in the project manager to manage the plan that I created.
And what was interesting is that it worked okay, but I was still having to be so involved in every project because I was the one that had that initial. informational conversation with the client. I was the one that set up the plan and my team knew what I was putting in the plan, but they didn’t really understand the full picture.
So what I realized very early on, because management’s my thing, is that I really needed them to own it from the start and it actually made them more successful. They had the ability to take more ownership in the role, and I still had to be the one that created what the scope of work was with the client so that we knew what was inside of the contract so that those expectations could be communicated to the team.
I still had to communicate what was important as part of our company in terms of what made a project successful that we were managing: things being done on time, communication happening, what was inside of our control, what was outside of our control? What were the things that mattered, what didn’t matter? And I had to give that to my project managers. And then it was really my responsibility to coach them. And I think this is what can be a struggle for business owners that are looking to delegate management is that, first off, maybe you’re in a position where you started your business because you were excellent at the skill that you delivered.
Let’s say it was copywriting, graphic design, accounting… insert whatever your specialty is. And then you realized you had to step into this manager role to run a business regardless of whether you had team members or not. You still had to manage your clients, you had to manage those people, and that might have felt a little funky because that’s not your area of expertise. It’s something that you had to learn, and I hear from a lot of clients that it’s almost feels like, wait, but I was better at doing it and now I have to manage this? Am I even qualified to do this? It was very, just a very weird experience.
And then this next shift happens when you go to bring in managers, is that then you’re responsible to lead them and shifting from managing to leading.
And I think one of the core, I wanna say core qualities, but it could be competencies maybe, is to be able to move into the role of coach, which again, can be a very strange experience for someone who’s never had to coach before, especially if you started as a done for you service provider!
Let’s break this down a little bit. And I’m wondering if any of this is resonating with you right now, because some things may not. But we’re going to dive into to everything to make sure that whatever’s resonating with you, you have some great next steps to take inside of your business with the managers that you either have or are thinking about hiring.
So we talked about how to successfully delegate management. It’s to delegate the entire role. And with that, to hire someone who can really own the entire role.
This is sometimes where I get the question, “can I promote someone internally who maybe was doing some of the implementation work to be a manager at the company? Is that possible? Or do I really need to hire someone from the outside who specializes in management to come in and oversee this role?”
I think it depends, and I say this a lot, which can sometimes be probably aggravating, right? Because you just want the answer!
It totally depends on the situation. This is what I will say, regardless if you’re thinking about hiring someone internally or hiring someone externally, write a job post. A job post will allow you to get really clear on what your expectations are of the role, and if you’re not sure what the expectation should be of a manager, then good thing you’re writing a job post because if somebody comes in to your business, regardless of their management experience, they’re going to ask you what it is that you want them to do. What is it that you want me to take ownership of? Where do I have, say? What am I touching? What am I not like? Let me know. And so you have to be really clear on that as the business owner, it doesn’t mean that it can’t evolve as you work with them or get more knowledge, but you have to have an expectation guide to start, and having a job post and an application is a great place to begin.
And then what I would do is I would have the person who is working with you already apply for the job. You can have conversations with them. You can see: do they have prior management experience? What are their interests? Why are they interested? But when it comes to actually seeing whether or not they would be a good fit, have them apply and see what some of their answers are. See what their experience is like.
I always have what I call situational questions on applications, so you can describe an experience that you’ve had where you’ve had to manage a situation with a client or a team member and you can write that out and then have the person share with you how they would handle it. It gives you a really good idea of how they think through things and how they would think through things as a manager and the one who is responsible for management. I think that there’s no one right answer, but I think that’s a really good place to start to know, okay, if I do decide to hire internally, this is what we’re getting ourselves into. This is what it looks like. This is the strengths, these are what needs to be developed. Do we have the time to develop those things?
If you’re hiring someone externally, the advantage may be that they have management experience, but they may not know your business as well. So you really have to weigh and evaluate that.
And another thing to make delegating management successful is to have standard operating procedures. I think a lot of times people avoid having standard operating procedures and want a manager to come in and create them for them, and it doesn’t mean that they can’t help you with it, but there is a lot of intellectual property that you have inside of your brain when it comes to the work that you do. It’s probably why you started your business in the first place. It’s probably why you are getting referrals and renewals from clients. It is probably why you are wanting to grow through an agency model. It’s because you have proprietary information on the way that you do business. And it doesn’t mean that the way that you do business shouldn’t change over time, I actually recommend that does change. It’s something that I call your foundations, the foundations of your business. You want to make sure that they are set up for team support and then they’re audited and evaluated regularly. But there is a certain reason why people come to you and so there it’s really important to have those SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) documented, at least the initial ones that will allow people that you’re hiring to be able to do their job.
I remember the first SOPs I created. I think I was just recording my screen as I was actually doing client work, so I wasn’t creating a project plan and then creating a fake project plan for an SOP, I was literally just like, “Hey, I just signed on this client. This was the conversation we had. This is what I’m building out. This is why I’m putting these tasks in. This is how I’m thinking through dates.” And it was a lot and it wasn’t perfect by any means.
Over time as we got more clients and I got more team members, we actually were able to break down those videos into smaller chunks. And we were also able to have a video version and a written version, and it was, much better. But that’s what I needed to get started when I did, and it worked just fine.
The next thing I would say in making delegating management successful is teaching them how to make decisions and judgment calls. Outlining what is important and what is not important so that they’re able to use their brain to be able to make those decisions. I think a big thing that I hear from folks who are bringing on team members is that they replaced the time that they were doing the work to time answering a lot of questions, and I think SOPs helps with that to a degree.
I also think that being really clear on what is important to you inside of your business and what is not when it comes to client work and delivery and management and customer service, will give your team a guide for how they can make decisions for the company. And I think this is really important when it comes to managers because depending on the roles and responsibilities you have for your manager they are likely going to be communicating with your clients. They’re likely going to be managing mistakes that might happen with your team. If there are deadline issues or delays or the client wants to add something to the scope of work, your manager is going to be the one who is fielding all of those requests and then seeing what’s possible and then being able to actually proceed and execute.
And if they’re not given that guide on how they can make those decisions, then they’re going to be coming to you constantly and you’re going to be wondering why you even have a manager in the first place.
I say this from working with dozens and dozens of agency owners and helping them bring on managers, but also from doing this myself. From really learning from some of the mistakes I made inside of my own agency bringing on teams. If a question came to me, I would say to myself, “Okay, how do I give this team member the information that they need to never have to ask me this question again?”
“What information do I need to give this team member so that they never have to ask me this question ever again?”
Or maybe anything related to this question, right? And so that allowed me to create what’s important, what’s not, so that they could take ownership over that area. It’s not just about not having team members come to you because it takes up your time, but it’s also allowing them to feel more confident in their role. It allows them to make decisions and feel empowered and have agency, and that’s what managers need to be effective in their role.
That leads into “how do you lead a manager?” Which is like the next question that comes up. Part of it is shifting from you making all of the decisions and judgment calls to giving your team the information they need to make those decisions and judgment calls.
The second piece of that is moving from manager to coach. So what does that look like? If there is a problem that comes up in your business and your manager comes to you, the first thing you can ask yourself is, ‘Okay, what information do I need to give to my manager so that they feel comfortable handling these problems in the future?”
But maybe there’s some problems they come to you with that you want to know about. I think that’s where sharing what’s important and what’s not is really helpful. So sometimes giving someone a guide, I’m just gonna make up an example where it’s okay, if you’re working with a client who is in this particular package and they want to add an additional piece of scope to that package, go forth and let it happen.
If you’re working with someone who’s in this particular package and they want to add something in, I need you to chat with me about it, because I want to make sure that they’re in the right package and that I might not need to be moved into another package.
It could also be the level of problem. So it could be, if a team member makes a mistake, nobody catches it, it goes to the client and somehow gets published live and they see it and have an issue and reach out to us, you might wanna know about that problem!
So let’s say you have a team member come to you, you can start asking them some questions. And this is what great coaches do. They don’t answer or solve or tell you what to do. That’s not the purpose of a coach. The purpose of the coach is to ask the questions that are required for the person that they are coaching to be able to come up with their own solution. Of what’s true to them, right? Not what they think that you want them to say, but what’s actually true for them.
And isn’t that the whole reason why we have teams to begin with? You shouldn’t be the one that’s solving all of the problems. If you are, then you’re probably not solving them in the best way. Because when you get different perspectives, when there’s a diversity of thought and perspectives and solutions, that’s when you’re going to come up with better answers.
Some questions to consider.: ” What’s going on? What’s the question that you have?” Let’s say the client recognized we made a mistake. “What is the outcome that you desire from this?” ” What would be an ideal outcome or a few ideal outcomes?” ” Based on that, what are two ideas that you have of solutions?”
I always ask team members to come to me with options of solutions, even if they think that they’re not that great, because at least starts to get the wheels spinning.
And sometimes they’ll recommend maybe two different solutions and you’re like, “sounds great.” You don’t even have to do much.
By asking these questions and understanding their thought process, you may then even feel more comfortable with them not even coming to you with this anymore.
“Okay, listen, if a client recognizes that we made a mistake and they reach out to you, at first I wanted you to tell me, you don’t even need to tell me anymore.”
If it gets to a point where maybe they’re like asking for money back or making demands or I don’t know, writing in all caps… we had a client that did do that once and it was just like, not ideal, then you can come to me and then maybe we need to release the client or figure out a different solution.
Once you understand their thought process and how they think through some of these questions, and you may feel comfortable delegating more ownership to them.
If they’re not quite hitting the nail on the head or maybe some of the solutions they’ve come up with you’re not sure about, and maybe you’re also not sure about the solution either, you can identify what the priorities are.
So this goes back to what’s important and what’s not.
What are the priorities? Is it continuing to have an ideal client, want to have a good experience to feel heard? Maybe a priority is to really protect your team members and their time.
What’s the priorities of the situation and then asking them what they think. Here’s the result that we really need. What do you think is the right way forward? And really getting their input there. And then it might also help you co-create a solution too.
So when I talk about moving from, being a manager to really, to leading into coaching, that’s what I mean, it’s starting to ask better questions.
Asking better questions to your team, which is going to lead to better answers and allow you to continue to be able to delegate and feel comfortable delegating ownership over the management of your business.
The last question that I want to answer here that I’ve received in the past is, “how do you help your manager grow in their role?”
There’s a few things here, just depending on your particular situation. So sometimes people, they hire a managers to oversee the work to oversee the people in the processes, making sure things are getting done. But sometimes, depending on the size of the business, your manager may also be wearing other hats.
And this is totally normal. It depends on the size of your business, the capacity of the person, the strengths of the person, the interest level, the values.
It really depends on a lot of things. Just like you, the business owner, maybe wearing multiple hats. I really don’t know a small business owner that doesn’t wear multiple hats, to be honest, even if they have team members, right?
We all have to put on, like I put on my CEO hat and I put on my teacher hat, and then I put on my, content hat and marketing hat. And that’s just the way that it is. If your manager is getting to a point where you’re checking in with them and either they’re at capacity, they’re wanting to grow in their role, maybe your business is growing and you’re trying to reorganize your organizational map. I recommend that my clients give their managers a delegation assessment.
This is something I have that business owners do when we first start working together to really understand what needs to come off of their plate and when. I have them do the same thing for team members, specifically managers. Even if all of the tasks fall under, managerial work or admin work, really having them list out everything that they’re doing and then assess it in a few different ways. I’ll mention two of those ways because they’re easy to understand in a short form situation, like a podcast episode.
The first is how they feel their skill level is at it. Are they great at it? Are they not so great at it? Are they in the middle?
And then if they like it or not, their preferences. So if it’s something they really enjoy, if it’s something that they don’t really enjoy. And what I always say to people is this assessment is for you. I think it is helpful for them to share what they’ve done with you, but sometimes people are a little bit more honest when they feel like someone’s not looking over their shoulders at what their numbers are. Those are two different evaluation points that you can have when doing this exercise. And so what’s interesting about this is that you start to get levels of each of these tasks and oof this person is not really skilled at this, they don’t really like it, this might be something that needs to come off of their plate next so that they can then be able to help you at a greater level.
That’s the point. It’s if you’re going to be taking things off of their plate, what are they going to be doing with that time back? And I’m sure that you can probably understand this because you probably went through the same thing. So really understanding, all right, if I do want someone to grow in their role, what does the evolution of this role look like at my company?
I think sometimes we just want like a map. What do I do when it comes to an agency model? What do I delegate first? What do I delegate next? When I bring on a manager? What is their roles and responsibilities? And while of course there’s examples, I firmly believe that giving people assessments and frameworks that they can then customize is the best way forward. Because you’re a manager, just like you, are going to have different strengths, they’re going to have different preferences.
I remember having a project manager on my team who shared, ” I really like project management, but I actually like doing some of the marketing work. I like creating social media designs and I like doing some of these other things.” And so when I shifted my business model from doing project management only to doing coaching and teaching, she continued working at my company because at the time I needed somebody who was able to do management and some implementation, and it was a match with some of the things that she enjoyed.
Now, if I were to talk to another project manager who did not like implementing and just wanted to manage, they might not be the best fit for that.
You really have to meet people where they are and see if it’s something that’s going to fit into your organization.
Being an agency owner myself, I have purchased the courses. I have purchased the templates. I have purchased the budget plans, I’ve purchased the what you should offer.
And there’s a no cookie cutter advice out there that works for everyone. There’s just not. And so having the framework, having these assessments and doing this alongside with your team, is the most beneficial.
The other thing I’ll say about helping your manager grow into their role is having opportunities for additional learning.
This is something that everyone should do. One of my values is that we’re always learning, and I think that in order to continue to run and evolve a relevant business, you need to constantly be learning, you need to be evolving, you need to be changing things up. There’s not this like destination, and the same thing goes with management. One of the things that I decided to offer inside of my program, is a place for managers of agency owners to be able to get support because, first of all, I love managers if you couldn’t tell, but I also realized that there was agency owners inside of my program who should be leaning on a team to implement some of the things inside of the program. So I’m like, you know what? Let’s bring on the managers and they can have access to this. They can be learning along the way, and then they can even have a space where they can ask questions and mastermind and have discussions to be able to develop themselves as managers, but also to be able to get perspective from other managers too.
When it comes to managing managers, what you’re actually doing is learning how to lead managers. And by moving from being a manager and managing some of the actions of what’s happening inside of the business, you’re moving to being a coach. You’re asking questions, which will help you and your company come up with better solutions. You learned that you really need to delegate the whole role for your manager to be able to own that role. And it doesn’t mean that you don’t have an onboarding process for your manager. I highly recommend breaking that down.
It’s not like on day one they just take over everything. That would not work well, but you give them ownership, which allows them to really have agency, have a sense of agency inside of your agency, which will allow you to feel more confident growing your agency and delegating more client work, and to be able to fully utilize the team that you are creating.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. It is one that I am very passionate about, and if you have any other questions around managers, please reach out to us. If you’d love us to cover a specific topic on this podcast, please reach out to us. I will see you back here next week.